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Keidel: St. John's Has Plenty Of Losing Ahead

Red Storm Hire Mike Anderson As New Head Coach

Jason Keidel
April 19, 2019 - 11:28 am
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So four years ago, I implored St. John's to fire then-rookie head coach Chris Mullin. Naturally, the online gangsters did a massive drive-by, blasting me with invectives before moving onto the next person, whose incurable flaw is an allergy to groupthink. Even the coach's wife -- the only one with a real right to be offended -- ripped me from close range.

Then St. John's got off to a sizzling start in 2018. It looked like the Mullin project was producing. So, naturally, I apologized to St. John's, Chris Mullin, his wife and all alumni who questioned my sanity four short years earlier.

Not sure which was worse, my misguided, servile stance, or St. John's proving I was right four years ago in four short weeks. They slithered into the field of 68 and got bounced by Bobby Hurley and Arizona State, which really means March Madness didn't include the Red Storm.

Exit Mullin, who quit under the guise of personal loss. Now we're hearing murmurs and rumors about Kardashian-levels of dysfunction at the school. Too many cooks are hovering over this hardwood broth and are instead poisoning the meal.

Mike Repole, the beverage tycoon and St. John's' biggest booster, jumped onto Mike Francesa's show and vaporized the school's basketball program as a "national embarrassment." He said in order to find the right coach the school first needs to replace the administration and branded the board of trustees "a bunch of yes men and puppets who like to talk." Repole also asserted that the school lowballed Hurley, making the job undesirable (a charge the school denies). He also called the local culture "toxic" and that it was "not fixable with current senior leadership." Sadly, for Repole, the university ignored his fears and demands, while a few prized candidates -- such as Tim Cluess, Porter Moser, Ryan Odom and Hurley -- moonwalked from the job.

Related: St. John's Hires Mike Anderson As New Head Coach

Now the school has its guy. Mike Anderson, who was recently fired by Arkansas, will replace Mullin, and begin another rebuild. St. John's likely found him appetizing because he comes cheap and requires no buyout cash. Plus he has experience, so they can at least say they hired a proven coach, even if he was just handed a pink slip.

How many times can St. John's go through a rebuild before they're just broken? A rebuild or reboot presupposes that an organization once flourished and had to deal some dead weight in order to get back into shape. But St. John's is now a former juggernaut, a big-name, big-city school with small-town sensibilities.

Maybe Anderson will morph into the next John Wooden. It's not his fault that the Red Storm stink and have gone through endless iterations since hardwood patriarch Lou Carnesecca retired in 1992. (At least they didn't hire Rick Pitino, who may have required permission from the FBI and NCAA, among others.)

But do you feel confident that St. John's -- a traditional power, former Big East pillar and once a haven for big-time recruits -- can play with the big boys anymore? This is the school that had Mullin, Mark Jackson, Walter Berry, Bill Wennington, Shelton Jones and Willie Glass.

Under Carnesecca, the team went to the NCAA Tournament in 13 of his final 15 years. (In one of the two years they didn't make it, they won the NIT.) In the 27 years since then, they’ve joined March Madness just seven times (or eight if you include them dipping their toes in the shallow end this year).

Now the Red Storm, no longer the Redmen, have only memories of Shamorie Ponds, another failed season and a frostbitten road ahead. Look forward to two or three more years of some patience, little prudence and plenty of losing. We can welcome Anderson, the program's newest hire, yet remember who hired him. The former basketball kings from Queens aren't even princes these days, just paupers.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel